Friday, May 05, 2006

Bishop Robinson speaks to Log Cabin


by Bob Roehr

Bishop Gene Robinson and the Reverend Martha Simmons at the Log Cabin Republicans conference in Washington, D.C.

"It is really important for us to come out as religious, because religion is the greatest single source of our oppression. It is going to take religious people to undo that religious oppression," said Bishop V. Gene Robinson.

"There is no story that you can tell that is any more important than how you, yourself came to grips with your being gay. And that you believe in a God who loves us all," he said.

Robinson, the first openly gay elected bishop in the Episcopal Church, who presides over the Diocese of New Hampshire, made his remarks in a keynote speech at the Log Cabin Republicans national convention on April 28 in the ornate Hall of Flags at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, across Lafayette Park from the White House.

He said every major Jewish and Christian group is grappling with the issue of gays, and the struggle is within denominations, not between them.

Robinson tied the debate to a dichotomy of whether the sacred text "is conceived to be the word of God, as if dictated from God's own mouth, or the work of God ... I think the great divide between religious peoples is between those who believe that the creation is the central story, and the point of it is that creation is good, versus those who see the fall as the central story. Is humanity essentially good? Or is humanity essentially depraved?"

He "challenged them to be a missionary ... go to the communities that you know and love ... and describe how I navigated my way through being gay and claiming God's love for me."

Robinson lambasted rhetoric of "hate the sin, love the sinner" as insincere.

"Being gay is something I am, not something I do," he said. He called the Vatican's attempts to link child abuse to homosexuality "absolute violence against you and me." He urged everyone to "get a little bolder about confronting homo hatred."


Robinson then participated in a panel discussion with Atlanta religious publisher the Reverend Martha Simmons and the Reverend C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance.

Simmons spoke movingly of having lived in San Francisco near the Castro and of losing her best friend to AIDS. "He taught me so much about being human and being kind, and the kind of person god would want you to be," she said.

She said, "A big part of homophobia that I encounter is just plain ignorance. Education goes a long way." The only thing that will help is courage: "Stand up against homophobia when you see it."

Gaddy stressed the importance of religious liberty to the gay rights movement. He said the one thing that can unite conservative Baptists and religious liberals is that "they do not want the government regulating their wedding ceremonies or telling their houses of worship who they can marry." He saw that as a potentially winning strategy.

Robinson said the easy answer to what motivates much of the opposition to equality for gays is fear, "and perfect love casts out fear." But he also tied it to patriarchy; that straight white males have for so long dominated society that they fear losing more. "None of us wants to give up the privilege we have," he said.

Gaddy said that religion "has never done well with sex, we don't know what to do with it." He said, "People who know better" have exploited it for political purposes.

Simmons said the problem was exacerbated by Democrats "who paid no attention to moral issues" and allowed the religious right to frame the debate. "Poverty is a moral issue, whether or not people have jobs" is a moral issue. "There were voices in the African American community who knew that this happened but they did not want to say they support the rights of gay people."


"The notion that my love for my partner somehow undermines somebody else's marriage is just pure idiocy," Robinson said.

Drawing upon his own recent experience in a residential program for alcohol abuse, he added, "If the people really want to protect marriage in this country, they should be putting money into treatment centers for alcohol because that is what is undermining marriage."

"In this country, unlike some others, we have put together the sacred and secular. Clergy act as agents of the state in solemnizing marriage. In our minds, the two have become inextricably linked. As clergy, we need to begin to separate civil rights from religious rites," Robinson said.

"I'm not sure that we shouldn't stop doing marriages. We ought to do what churches do, which is bless those marriages. Until we start separating that out, I'm not sure that our people are going to separate them in our mind."

Simmons echoed that, "It is the only way this issue is winnable over religious people. That was the only way the issue of slavery was winnable over religious people. History will show you that this country would still be practicing slavery had it been left up to religious people.

"Instead, there were people who said, the law has to change. We wish you all felt it in your heart, but since you don't..." She encouraged dialogue but also practicality, "Don't waste a whole lot of time trying to convince people who you know are never going to change their mind and accept you."

Gaddy said, "At one point people thought that we out to change the nation by changing one individual at a time. But it takes too long. The civil rights movement found its initial success because laws changed. And laws changed because there was political leadership willing to take a position to let the nation be all that it promised to be.

"I am perfectly willing to live with people who are bigoted if the laws have changed enough to create a culture in which it is not acceptable to be bigoted," Gaddy said, "because we can live with that; we can't live with the idea that the laws have to support our bigotry."

1 comment:

Dan said...

So, if it was up to religious people there would still be slavery?? This guy doesn't have a grasp of history; the abolition movement came out of evangelical 19th century Christianity. The civil rights movement came out of the Black churches; equating the slavery issue with the gay movement and the Black civil rigths movement doesn't hold water because Race is a given but behaviour is not.

As for bishop Robinson, he said that alcoholism ruins marriage and he is right. I wonder if it was a factor in his own divorce.

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